Skip to main content
ARS Home » Northeast Area » University Park, Pennsylvania » Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #371207

Research Project: Sustainable Intensification of Integrated Crop-Pasture-Livestock Systems in Northeastern Landscapes

Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

Title: Survey of production management practices on organic, grass-fed dairy farms in the United States

item SNIDER, MIRIAM - University Of Vermont
item ZIEGLER, SARA - University Of Vermont
item DARBY, HEATHER - University Of Vermont
item Soder, Kathy
item BRITO, ANDRE - University Of New Hampshire
item BEIDLER, BRENT - Consultant
item FLACK, SARAH - Consultant
item GREENWOOD, SABRINA - University Of Vermont
item NILES, MEREDITH - University Of Vermont

Submitted to: Northeast Pasture Consortium Annual Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/12/2020
Publication Date: 1/15/2020
Citation: Snider, M., Ziegler, S., Darby, H., Soder, K.J., Brito, A., Beidler, B., Flack, S., Greenwood, S., Niles, M. 2020. Survey of production management practices on organic, grass-fed dairy farms in the United States[Abstract] . Northeast Pasture Consortium Annual Meeting Proceedings. p. 1.

Interpretive Summary: No Interpretive Summary is required for this Abstract Only. JLB.

Technical Abstract: During the last decade, organic dairy production has rapidly grown in the United States with the consumer market for organic milk growing from 1.9% to 5.0% of total milk sales. However, many organic dairy producers are currently facing economic challenges due to the fluctuating milk market; this has led some organic producers to a shift toward grass-fed dairy production and the grass-fed milk market, which is growing faster than many other dairy sectors. Demographic and management data regarding organic dairy production have previously been reported but there is a lack of research outlining commercial use of grass-fed organic dairy production practices and producer-identified research needs. The objectives of this study were to 1) assess information regarding current production practices, including herd health, economic data, milk production, and producer knowledge on grass-based dairy farms and 2) identify areas of research and outreach to advance the organic, grass-fed dairy industry across the United States via survey methods. A survey questionnaire was mailed to 351 grass-fed dairy farms throughout the United States. Producers were asked to report on farm characteristics and demographics, forage and animal production practices, and farmer perceptions regarding management practices. The survey response rate was 46.7% with the majority of respondents farming in New York (49.7%). Surveyed producers were an average age of 47.6 years old, 10 years younger than the national average. Over 60% of respondents reported that they identified as part of the plain community, directly correlating with the percentage of producers that indicated that they never utilize technology, such as computers, on the farm (45.6%). The average farm consisted of 219 acres of pasture and an average herd size of 49 cows (range 1 – 250 animals); equating to 4.47 acres per head. In total, 63% of producers reported needing to purchase additional forages. Most farms (96.3%) reported that they have been certified organic for an average of 10.3 years and grass-fed (84.2%) for 5.1 years. The majority of farmers reported utilizing grazing systems in which cattle where moved to new paddocks twice or more daily with an average of 197 grazing days per year. Greater milk production was reported by producers that indicated they had a high level of knowledge in understanding forage quality test results, growing higher energy forages, and strategies for improving forage quality. Needs for additional research include creating financial and production benchmarks to help expand adoption and marketing of grass-fed production systems and products.